Nginx, PHP-FPM, Wordpress, Super Cache

Mon 24 October 2011 | tags: Nginx, php-fpm, secure, supercache, try_files, wordpress, -- (permalink)

So recently I've been exploring the alternative world of Nginx instead of Apache, and PHP-FPM instead of mod_php. There are plenty of tutorials on the net for getting all of this setup, however not that many are up to date anymore for the Super Cache stuff. Hopefully what I present here will be a more up to date config, that is also mostly secure compare to a good number of ones on the net (to do with passing non PHP files to the php interpreter).

Firstly, my Nginx config for this very blog.

server {
  rewrite ^/(.*)$1 permanent;

server {
    root /home/tim/domains/;

    access_log /var/log/nginx/;
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/default.access.log host_combined;
    #access_log  /var/log/nginx/uri.log host_combined_uri;
    error_log /var/log/nginx/;

    index index.php;

    location / {

        if ($http_cookie ~ "comment_author_|wordpress|wp-postpass_") {
            rewrite ^/(.*) /loggedin$1 last;
        try_files $uri

    location /loggedin {
        rewrite ^/loggedin(.*) /$1 break;
        try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php;

    location ^~ /code {
            proxy_set_header Host $host;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Server $host;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Host $host;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;

    location ~* \.(ico|css|js|gif|jpe?g|png)$ {
        expires 1w;

    fastcgi_intercept_errors off;

    location ~ \.php {
        try_files $uri =404;
        include fastcgi_params;

    include drop;

The first thing to notice is line 1-4. This simply redirects everyone from to Simple as that.

Next we define the server and the root document path. Still very standard. Then we define access logs, for various reason I'm logging to more than one place, but that'll change once everything is finished.

Line 15 is boring, we just define the "index index.php" so that if you access a directory it will load index.php or give you a 404 (which it won't because of things further down).

Now for the fun. Lines 19-21. These catch a logged in user and send them on an internal redirect down to lines 28-32. This is so we don't serve cached content to logged in users. That little snippit is thanks to a post at

However, there was a problem in the rest of the code. Thanks to a post at I realised we needed to test if the cache was being used or not. So I added the extra logging and discovered it wasn't. I quickly worked out what the problem was. The code at lines 22 - 25 had the middle 2 lines swapped around. So "\$uri/" was before the supercache line. What this mean was that it would try if the \$uri was a directory, and to load a directory it would try index.php (due to the index line) and so would end up loading wordpress through index.php. However, if we try the supercache line first, we find the cache file and so don't need to load indexes.

And just like that, magic, it works! We use supercache files for normal users, and if a cache file doesn't exist, we load wordpress like normal!

I'm also looking at how we run Nginx and PHP-FPM. I have heard of a few ways, one being that root runs a Nginx as user nginx or nobody, and each user runs their own Nginx which we proxy to from the main one. (And users run their own PHP-FPM as well). This sounds like a lot of work, very complicated, but yes, it gives you absolute security as only the user can access his web docs and scripts, and everything runs as that user. No one else's php process can load your config file to discover your database passwords.

Another way of running it is with Nginx as a nginx/nobody/www-data user, and each user run their own php-fpm but give the nginx/nobody/www-data user read only access to the web directory. If done correctly, this can actually be very secure. First, (as root) you chgrp all the files and directories in the users doc root (htdocs, www, public_html etc) to the user nginx will run as. Ideally, you also only allow them read access (so `chmod g+rX,g-w -R public_html` will give them access to read, but not write). You then set the gid bit on the directory; `chmod g+s public_html` (and do this for any directories that already exist underneath). Now any files the user creates underneath the public_html dir will be readable to the nginx user, so nginx can serve static files. Now running php-fpm as each user (I use php-fpm with a pool per user), the php process can read all the files that user can, so only the users own php process can read their config files with the password in it! And it also means that files you upload (i.e. wordpress media files) will be owned by the user, not by www-data or what ever the web user is. This is SO much better than Apache and mod_php, and easier than suExec with mod_php.

Once I have more of my domains moved to Nginx, I'll do a report on memory and cpu usage.

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